This isn't the first time I've brought up the phenomenon, I believe. My favorite kind is when we use French grammar but English words. In Burkina French, the most common way to expressive possessive is with the preposition "pour," "for." To say, "That's mine," I'd say, "ça, ç'est pour moi." A group of us went out to a nearby bar, and someone had the clever idea of bringing a bottle opener from the transit house since waitstaff sometimes have the perplexing habit of bringing beer and then not opening it until asked. When someone asked her if it was hers, she said, "No, it's for the house."
I spent the better part of a week assisting other volunteers at a "girl's camp" they were running. Girl's camps are a really common secondary project for volunteers from all 4 sectors here, the goal in general being to encourage the girls to get as much education as they can and to try to take control of their own lives (and to live them responsibly...like not getting pregnant at 14 for instance). I helped in several sessions, and led one on first aid and origami (the process of how those two things got thrown together is still opaque to me). It was cute how the class of 25 girls chose their seating arrangement: the desks here fit three students normally, and they were in a classroom with enough desks they could even have sat one per desk and still had room to spare. Instead, they squeezed in 4 and 5 to a desk. The youngest girls we called the "cupcakes," cause they were tiny and so cute you just wanted to eat them up.
Autrement, the funniest thing that happened was the session led by a Burkinabé on family planning. His main argument for spacing out children? So that the wife will be available more often for sex, and therefore the husband less likely to cheat! In the same session, he talked about the price of condoms, and the fact that they're so cheap that even if you're using FOUR PER NIGHT you're not spending much.
One of the projects during the camp was to have the girls make liquid soap, then wander around town to sell it, having groups compete to see who could sell it the fastest. The idea was to teach them about marketing, costs and profits, etc. Can you tell this camp was run by a Small Enterprise Development volunteer? Anyway, it struck us as we were discussing the plan that it's one of the nice things about living here that it's perfectly acceptable to have 12 year old girls wandering around town. Imagine trying a similar project in the US! Although as it turns out, the girls didn't wander at all - as soon as we gave them the bottles they gave us money! It turns out they'd already talked to their family and neighbors and collected money from them to buy the soap! They told us that this, too, was a form of marketing, and we couldn't disagree.
I missed the last day, when the girls performed skits they'd written during the week. And I'm sorry I did, as there was one in which a girl got pregnant, tried to get a back-alley abortion (abortions are illegal here), then when that didn't work drank a potion to do it herself which ended up killing her. At the end they all said in unison, "Just say NO to abortion!" Hm, not EXACTLY the take-home message we were hoping for...
In a conversation about research, I mentioned to my friend something or other about microfiche. She said many people her age (she's 24) probably don't even know what that is, and I was really dating myself. To which I immediately responded that I may as well date myself, as no one else has recently shown any interest in doing so.
My second African birthday was celebrated at a German restaraunt in Ouaga. I ordered a steak roquefort, and for the first time since arriving here was asked how I wanted it cooked! I wonder, gentle reader, if you can really appreciate how big a deal that was. It was a wonderful way to spend my birthday. Then we all went to a bar where my friends bought me and my birthday buddy (one of my neighbors from the group that just swore in shares my birthday!) shots of Johnny Walker. Good steak, then good whisky. Yes, I was very content that night.
Went great! We now have 32 awesome new volunteers. I prepared an informal powerpoint presentation describing the SE program that was run during the reception after the ceremony; likewise other volunteers prepared presentations describing their own sectors. I was very happy with our finished product, but it was completely ignored by nearly everyone there in favor of the table we set up selling moringa products. Oh well, it's nice to see such a strong interest in moringa! Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the outfit I wore (a bright yellow boubou, a traditional Muslim garment here that looks like nothing else so much as a nightgown with pants underneath) but there ARE pictures, I made sure someone took some. I just haven't gotten them yet. Afterwards, as we were catching a bus early the next morning for GHANA(!!!), we decided to basically stay out all night dancing. Which I did with shameless abandon.
I have NEVER seen a sign like this in BF.
Ok, I'll stop dwelling on that point now and instead bask in the memory of how awesomely great the vacation was.With a few exceptions, I found Ghanaians to be less exuberant than Burkinabé. I don't mean less friendly, exactly, just less imposing with their friendliness. I've seen Ghana described as "Africa for beginners," and I can understand why. If you are considering an Africa trip but worry about culture shock, you should really consider Ghana. A few interesting quirks of the language: people say "You are welcome" to actually mean that you are welcome, as in they're glad you're there. But when someone just randomly says that to you, you can't help but think, "Was I supposed to just thank him for something?" Also, I find it absolutely endearing that when answering a yes-or-no question in the affirmative, they will say "Yes, please": "Do you have Castle Milk Stout?" "Yes, please. How many would you like?" Speaking of, CMS is a beer that would be well-received in America it's so good. Finally, the signs in the hotels cracked me up: they say basically that the hotel isn't responsible for items stolen from your room, so if you have something you're worried about you should check it with the front desk. The phrase they actually use is "You must hand over valuables to the front desk." Ha!
We started off by stopping in the second-largest city in Ghana, Kumasi, which has (arguably) the largest market in West Africa. It's dazzling, intense, confusing, and wonderful. We got completely lost, of course, but that just meant we got to walk around all the more.
So, it's been a hell of a summer, and I'm both glad I had it AND glad it's almost over. I'm exhausted! Soon I'll be going back to site, where I hope to stay for a long time and settle in (well, I may do some day trips to neighboring villages before school starts). So it will be some time before I can update you on my exploits. Oh! Almost forgot the shoutout. Tonight (I've spent several hours on this post, it's late!) the shoutout is for Vernon and Nancy, two friends of my mom's who have been very supportive both of me, and, more importantly, her! Cheers, ladies!